Jewish principal accused of abusing girls ‘faked illness’

The Australian

February 15, 2018

By Jacob Atkins, Jamie Walker

The stalled extradition of fugitive Melbourne Jewish school principal Malka Leifer has been revived, with the accused child molester last night making her second appearance this week in an Israeli court.

Flanked by her lawyers, the 54-year-old grandmother wept in court and was frequently asked by guards to stop rattling the cuffs on her shackles, when she ­appeared before a judge on charges of obstructing justice, allegedly by faking mental illness to avoid being put on a plane back to

Ms Leifer is wanted on 74 counts of child sex abuse, including rape, allegedly committed against girls when she was a teacher and headmistress at the ultra-orthodox Adass Israel School from 2003-08.

Israeli prosecutors last night applied in the Jerusalem court for the reinstatement of an extradition application from Australia for Ms Leifer to be returned to Melbourne.

Welcoming the move, the ­Attorney-General, Christian Porter, said her alleged crimes were “abhorrent” and it was imperative she faced an Australian court.

“We have been advised that Ms Leifer has been arrested following a domestic investigation in Israel for possible administration of justice offences,” he said.

“This is a positive development and we welcome the work of Israeli authorities. ”

The case effectively collapsed last year after an Israeli judge accepted defence evidence that panic attacks and a form of psychological paralysis prevented Ms Leifer from attending court, a legal requirement in Israel. Ms Leifer was subsequently released from home detention.

Pressure from Australia, including direct representations from Malcolm Turnbull and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, paved the way for ­Israeli police to mount an undercover operation that allegedly ­exposed her claimed incapacity as a sham.

State prosecutor Matan Akiva said last night he was in possession of several covertly recorded videos in which Ms Leifer was filmed at the supermarket, laundromat and post office, and standing on the balcony of her home speaking on a mobile phone.

Mr Akiva argued that this was sufficient evidence that she was hoodwinking the psychiatrists evaluating her, who had been told that she was bedridden and in need of a caretaker to enable her to be physically mobile.

Ms Leifer’s lawyer, Yehuda Freid, argued his client was the victim of pressure from Australian officials. “The prosecution don’t like to lose and they are very frustrated, what do they do? Catch her at the laundromat? And it looks to the Australians like they are doing something,” he said.

The new judge overseeing the case, Ram Winograd, ruled that she be kept in hospital under prison conditions and be put under close observation by the Jerusalem district psychiatrist, who would recommend next week whether she was fit for the hearings to proceed.

“The judge’s decision may be a best-case scenario because she’s not free, she’s going to be locked up, observed, assessed over a solid week — something that’s never happened before,” victims advocate Manny Waks said outside court last night.

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